Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Understanding the Teletherapy Phenomenon

Teletherapy

Transforming mental health treatment in Australia with Lysn Founder Dr. Jonathan King 

 

By Jasmine Chan

 

Mental health is an issue we cannot overlook. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4.8 million Australians suffered from a mental or behavioral condition in 2018. Although it’s vital for those in need to receive help from professionals as early as possible, searching for a suitable therapist can be an exasperating experience. 

 

Sufferers are often faced with challenges in the form of the time and cost that’s needed for treatment. For many, taking the first step of reaching out to a therapist can be daunting in and of itself. Given these circumstances, many are turning to teletherapy–therapeutic services that are carried out in a home setting–to obtain the mental health support they’re seeking, giving rise to a new generation of startups. According to Statista, the total number of global telehealth patients grew from 350,000 in 2013 to 7 million in 2018.

 

Private practitioners began expanding their services to the Internet in the late 1990s, where platforms like Life Helper and eTherapy made considerable strides in the e-clinic space. Today, market leaders such as BetterHelp.com, TalkSpace, and Breakthrough have increased awareness around online counseling–an industry that’s expected to reach around US$20 billion by 2026 (Acumen Research and Consulting). 

 

Australia-based Lysn is one such mental health company that’s working to increase the accessibility of mental health treatment by connecting users to licensed professionals through face-to-face, phone, and video consultations, with a chat feature to be introduced later this year. Founded by Dr. Jonathan King, Lysn’s mission is to fulfill the mental health needs of all Australians. Jumpstart spoke with King to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey and vision for addressing one of the most pressing public health concerns of our time. 

 

A medic in the digital sector 

 

In 2017, King was working as a doctor in Far North Queensland when he observed that health services in Australia were insufficient in meeting patient needs in both urban and rural regions. He describes the current access model as the most difficult part of receiving healthcare, as the system requires patients first to seek help through a general practitioner, pediatrician, or psychiatrist to obtain a referral for subsidized therapy sessions. 

 

“This [system] has proven to be a big limiting step for many to seek help. In rural areas, many Australians suffer from the issue of having a dual relationship–knowing the local doctor personally and professionally can create a barrier of stigma for anyone seeking help,” he says. 

 

Recognizing this issue in the healthcare system inspired him to found Lysn. Launched in November 2017, the company has grown from a handful of clinicians to over 500 qualified psychologists nationally. 

 

“Today, we are able to service the mental health needs of all Australians by improving access to quality services, and in some cases, improving the typical wait time or providing a service that really wasn’t available,” says King.

 

Coming from a surgical background, King admitted that his transition to the digital mental health field was not a straightforward one. But his experience as a medical professional equipped him with the knowledge to construct a well-rounded, patient-oriented system for Lysn.

 

“I already understood many of the nuances of healthcare and had many ideas on improving current models of patient care,” he adds.

 

Patient-oriented to the core 

 

The slogan “You talk, we Lysn” aligns with the company’s mission statement, which is to prioritize clients’ needs. With King’s extensive experience in healthcare services, he designed Lysn as a platform for users to be more comfortable with asking for mental health support, allowing them to make progress at their own pace and convenience. 

 

“I believe that as we become more time-poor as a society and more patient-centric, we are allowing users to take as much priority as our clinicians,” he says. 

 

While some question the efficacy of teletherapy compared to traditional therapy, King says that there are numerous studies proving telehealth and traditional therapy share the same standard of care. According to The SAGE Encyclopedia of Abnormal and Clinical Psychology, patients who received in-person and those who had video conference therapy usually experience similar benefits, regardless of the sample sizes in the studies. On top of the quality of care provided, telehealth offers additional benefits, such as saving more time for patients. 

 

“This rids the need for the patient to travel to their local psychologist, who may not be the best fit for them, and allows them to meet the best clinician for their needs, regardless of distance,” says King. 

 

To dispense personalized healthcare to users, King stresses that users must identify the type of help they need precisely. With this objective in mind, Lysn also serves as an educational platform for users to gain more understanding of mental health. 

 

“Our goal is to provide personalized healthcare for all users, and part of that is understanding the type of help that users want,” King says. “Just because users come to us, doesn’t necessarily mean they want to book an appointment with a psychologist right there and then.”  

 

Lysn’s learning center, which contains educational videos and podcasts, provides users with resources to make better decisions about their well-being. Through the self-discovery process, users can decide whether they need further support. The platform goes a step further to provide assessment tools.  

 

‘My Lysn Dashboard’ offers several features that allow users to track their emotions, including a mood tracking chart, biometrics function, self-care plan, and a gratitude journal. According to King, the dashboard “empowers [users] to take control of their health and gives them the opportunity to share more with the clinicians they trust, and who are involved in their care plans.”

 

The platform also uses an advanced matching system of 21 questions to help users find a suitable therapist who works within the area of expertise that’s relevant to the issues that the user is facing. 

 

“We help users find a psychologist that suits their personality needs as well, which improves the overall outcome of care for patients by improving therapeutic alliance,” King adds.

 

Lysn also accepts referrals from general practitioners and other specialists. In this case, the customer service team will connect with users directly to assist them with the therapist-matching process. 

 

Bringing efficiency and beyond   

 

Like all digital solutions, Lysn aims to provide an expeditious therapeutic experience to users while maintaining the gold standard of traditional therapy. Psychologists on the platform connect with 24% of users within 24 hours and 93% of users within 71 hours. The system improves the efficiency of the matching process, allowing it to overcome the deep-rooted problem of long wait times for mental health services.

 

“Our large workforce connects with patients quickly and provides them with help within reasonable timeframes, unlike some multiple-week or month-long wait times that can occur in remote areas through traditional psychology,” says King. 

 

Looking into the future, King hopes to build Lysn into a holistic mental health company that tackles problems around service delivery through digital solutions, and improves new care models through data and research. He also believes teletherapy will experience a growing dominance in mental health help.

 

“As we become more patient-centric, our treatment options will be guided by the public’s needs and wants,” King comments.

 

Teletherapy does not represent the only solution to the growing mental health crisis, but it is making strides in broadening access for sufferers. With the continued efforts of mental health companies like Lysn, we may be able to reverse the trajectory of the global mental health epidemic. 

 

Jasmine is Jumpstart’s Editorial Assistant. 

 

This story was originally published in Jumpstart Issue 29: Back to Basics as Match and Listen.

 

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